There are so many types of homes and houses, and some can be easily confused. Let’s take a look at definitions of homes that are often mixed up, so you can be sure that you know what you’re looking for.

What is a single-family home vs. a multifamily home?

Families come in all shapes in sizes, as do single-family homes. A single-family home is a standalone house built for one family. If a structure includes more than one collection of living spaces with separate entrances and privacy, it’s a multi-family home.

The term multi-family home can be applied to any structure with more than one independent dwelling space, from a simple duplex to a sprawling apartment building.

What is a duplex vs. a twin home?

The difference between a duplex and a twin home is ownership. They are both single structures with two private living spaces that share a wall. A twin home is sold as two properties on two separate lots. Alternatively, a duplex is considered one property.

You might share a wall with the person next to you in a twin home; otherwise, the owners are free to treat their side of the structure and their lot as they wish.

It’s possible for a duplex to be sold to two separate owners – similar to a twin home – but the lot is one shared space, and therefore, owners must cooperate on decisions regarding the property.

What is a townhome vs. a row house?

Townhomes and row houses are both homes that share at least one wall with another home. A row house specifically refers to attached homes that line up along a street, in a row. Townhomes can be arranged in clusters or lines that aren’t parallel to the road.

What is a manufactured home vs. a prefab or modular home?

A manufactured home is ready to be lived in when it leaves the factory. A prefabricated home is constructed in pieces which are then assembled on-site. The term modular home refers to houses that are built off-site, and placed on a permanent foundation (and includes prefab). According to Andy Gianino, a builder of modular homes and the author of “The Modular Home,” most modular homes are between 12 feet and 15 feet, 9 inches wide, and up to 60 feet long, which allows for transportation of the pieces via truck. A manufactured home is not a modular home because it can be moved after construction.

What is a mobile home vs. a motorhome or RV?

A mobile home is less mobile than a motorhome or RV. Mobile homes (also called trailers) are generally placed in one location for permanent living. They come in two standard sizes: singlewide (typically 18 feet wide or less and 90 feet long or less) and doublewide (typically 20 feet wide and 90 feet long or less).

A motorhome or RV is a home on wheels that can be easily moved from place to place. The most common size of motorhome (Class C-25) is 23 to 25 feet long and can sleep a family of five.

What is a houseboat vs. a floating home?

A houseboat is like a motorhome on water; it’s self-propelled and can be driven like a boat. A floating home is a home on the water that floats on a foundation of logs, Styrofoam and/or concrete. Floating homes are permanently connected to a dock where they’re hooked up to electrical and sewage.

What is a tiny home vs. a tiny house?

A tiny home is a standalone structure, typically between 100 and 400 square feet. Most tiny homes are built on wheels, but they aren’t necessarily meant to be mobile. In most cities, the minimum size for an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) on a residential property is around 800 square feet. To get around these restrictions, the first tiny home builders constructed their dwellings on wheels, so they could park them on their property like an RV.

Some say tiny homes and tiny houses are the same thing. Others argue a tiny house is any small living space, including RVs, vans, sheds, boats, etc. When in doubt, call the 400-square-foot-or-less structures on wheels tiny homes.

What is a mansion vs. a McMansion?

A mansion is a very large house; somewhere between 5,000 and 8,000 square feet. But the specifics of what qualifies vary based on opinion and location. A mansion in Manhattan might be 3,000 square feet while a house in Atlanta would need to be much bigger to qualify. A mansion is also defined by luxury: tennis courts, large open foyers, grand staircases, crystal chandeliers. A McMansion is big too, but that’s not what makes it different from a mansion. “McMansion” is generally used to describe homes with few unique characteristics. Their cookie-cutter design is usually between 3,000 and 5,000 square feet, but runs the gamut. As Brian Miller, a sociologist at Wheaton College put it in an interview with CityLab: “You have people who would suggest that 3,000-square-foot homes are McMansions. Well, it’s 500 square feet more than the average new home, but that’s a lot different from other people who are describing 10,000-square-foot homes as McMansions.”


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Residential Home Types: 17 Clarifying Home Definitions

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